Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano has not been hesitant to compare RB Doug Martin to Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens' back Schiano coached at Rutgers a few years ago.
So far, the comparison looks like a good one.
Martin, who was named the NFL's offensive rookie of the month on Thursday, enters Sunday's game at Oakland ranked third in the league with an average of 109.6 yards from scrimmage per game, the combination of rushing and receiving yards.
The only players ahead of him are Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, at 114.3 yards and – who else? – Rice at 109.9 yards.
"From the beginning we've been saying that this guy's got some special abilities and he just keeps getting better and better,'' Schiano said of Martin, who was honored after scoring three touchdowns and leading all NFL players with 155.7 yards from scrimmage per game in October.
"We really couldn't be more pleased with how he's developed and with his contributions so far and we're really looking forward to seeing what the future holds for him,'' offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said.
Martin will have the chance to celebrate with his family and friends this weekend as the game at Oakland takes him close to his hometown of Stockton, Calif.
"It's homecoming, so I've got about 60-plus people coming to the game,'' said Martin, who was not much of a Raiders fan growing up.
"I've heard some stories about what it's like at Raiders games, but I've never been to a game there myself," he said. "But either way, I can't really let any of that interfere with what we're trying to do, which is win.''
Raiders RB Darren McFadden was on pace to have his best season in 2012 when he injured a foot in Week 8 and missed the rest of the season. From the looks of things, McFadden still isn't quite right.
After averaging 5.4 yards per carry in seven games last season, McFadden is averaging just 3.3 this year.
The Bucs aren't paying much attention to those paltry numbers. After watching film of McFadden, the fourth overall draft pick in 2008, they think they'll have their hands full with the former Arkansas back.
"He's a home-run hitter,'' Bucs SLB Quincy Black said. "You can see it on the film. That dude, he's fast, he's explosive, and he can do a lot of things out of the backfield. He's real dynamic, real dangerous.''
Former Largo High and Iowa State CB Leonard Johnson came to the Bucs as a rookie free agent in April carrying a sizeable chip on his shoulder, the result of being passed over during the draft.
That chip stayed in place for a few months, but by the time Johnson made his first NFL start and grabbed his first interception in Thursday's win at Minnesota, it had completely disappeared.
"All those hard feelings I had about the draft and everything, I let all that stuff go once I made the team,'' Johnson said. "After that I was like, 'I'm here.' I don't have to carry a chip on my shoulder anymore.''
CBs Eric Wright (Achilles tendon) and Brandon McDonald (ankle) returned to practice on Thursday. Schiano expects both to be well enough to play Sunday. …The Bucs this week will try to become the first team in franchise history to score 28 points or more in four consecutive games. …The team promoted DE Aaron Morgan from the practice squad to the 53-man roster and waived DE George Johnson.